Rutgers Suicide Raises Concerns Over Social Media

Experts say public suicide of Rutgers freshman will have wide-ranging implications for privacy and gay rights

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    Harold Krent, Dean of the Kent College of Law, says the suicide of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi should make people stop and think about over-exposing themselves and others. (Published Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010)

    Legal experts in Chicago say the suicide of a Rutgers University freshman over very public posts via social media will have wide-ranging implications for privacy and gay rights.

    "We have to think about how we can help people understand there are real-world consequences from Tweeting, from streaming video and from putting messages on Facebook that other people can see," said Kent College of Law Dean Harold Krent.

    Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi chose to leap off the George Washington Bridge after his college roommate used the webcam on his computer to broadcast a sexual encounter with another man on the Internet, prosecutors said.

    The roommate, Dharun Ravi even posted what he saw on Twitter:

    "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly’s room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

    Ravi and his friend, Molly Wei, have been charged with invading Clementi’s privacy. In New Jersey, both cold face up to five years in prison.

    “The fact that students would Tweet about these occurrences without any kind of understand of  the real world ramifications of exposing this conduct to the public is mind numbing," said Krent.

    The man who crafted Illinois’ first cyber-bullying law, University of Illinois Chicago professor William Kling, said laws must be used along with school policies to address this kind of behavior.

    But he cautioned that misappropriating technology for malicious purposes might be something we "won’t be able to regulate outright."